This story is from the category Augmenting Organics
Date posted: 16/03/2012
While Robonaut 2 has been busy testing its technology in microgravity aboard the International Space Station, NASA and General Motors have been working together on the ground to find new ways those technologies can be used.
The two groups began working together in 2007 on Robonaut 2, or R2, which in 2011 became the first humanoid robot in space. Now they are jointly developing a robotic glove that auto workers and astronauts can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Officially, it's called the Human Grasp Assist device, but it's generally called the K-Glove or Robo-Glove for short.
When engineers, researchers and scientists from GM and NASA began collaborating on R2, one of the design requirements was for the robot to operate tools designed for humans, alongside astronauts in outer space and factory workers on Earth. The team achieved an unprecedented level of hand dexterity on R2 by using leading-edge sensors, actuators and tendons comparable to the nerves, muscles and tendons in a human hand. In doing so, they realized that there was no reason that a robot should be the only one to benefit from their findings.
Research shows that continuously gripping a tool can cause fatigue in hand muscles within a few minutes, but initial testing of the Robo-Glove indicates the wearer can hold a grip longer and more comfortably.
For example, an astronaut working in a pressurized suit outside the space station or an assembly operator in a factory might need to use 15- to 20 pounds of force to hold a tool during an operation but with the robotic glove they might need to apply only five to 10 pounds of force.
"The prototype glove offers my spacesuit team a promising opportunity to explore new ideas, and challenges our traditional thinking of what extravehicular activity hand dexterity could be," said Trish Petete, division chief, Crew and Thermal Systems Division, NASA's Johnson Space Center.
And there are promising applications on the ground, as well.
"When fully developed, the Robo-Glove has the potential to reduce the amount of force that an autoworker would need to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions," said Dana Komin, GM's manufacturing engineering director, Global Automation Strategy and Execution. "In so doing, it is expected to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury."
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